Will Philadelphia’s experiment in eradicating ‘food deserts’ work?
The Washington Post, June 8, 2012.
Philadelphia has invested $900,000 into more than 600 corner stores, in an effort to help people make healthier eating choices. Philadelphia has the highest obesity rate and the most poor people of any big American city, and the city sees healthy corner store initiatives as one way to improve the food environment. In many ways, Philadelphia is seen as an epicenter of the efforts to improve public health by creating better access to healthy foods.
Although healthy food access projects seem to be gaining traction, research done to date on such food desert interventions has not clearly shown that access to healthy foods causes significant improvements in eating behavior or obesity rates. Government officials are carefully watching for new research to see if this strategy is a worthwhile investment. A new study being conducted in Philadelphia will have significant sway in these decisions.
Philadelphia is “conducting the largest study to date of what happens when nutritious options are introduced into neighborhoods that have traditionally gone without. It’s measuring what people bought before, what they’re eating now and whether that improves…. Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research is working with the city to study how shopping habits do, or don’t, change when healthy options are introduced. Last year, before stores added nutritious options, researchers stopped 7,000 shoppers on their way out of the store to look at their purchases. With the new foods now available, researchers are doing another 7,000 stops.”
The results of this study will be published in about a year.